Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 09.59.04 Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec

Pierre Le Guennec, 75, and Danielle, 72, claim the pieces were given to them in the 1970s by Jacqueline, Picasso's last wife, as a gift whilst electrician Pierre was working at the artist's house.

Jacqueline handed the couple the box of artworks saying, 'Here, this is for you,' and for the last 40 years they have been kept in the Le Guennec's garage. The artworks in question are now estimated to be worth near to £80 million.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 09.59.28 Sketch of a hand in hidden collection

Pierre Le Guennec explained to Le Parisien newspaper: 'I worked for Monsieur and Madame Picassso from 1970 to 1973. One day Jacqueline called me and said "Here, this is for you."

'I looked and saw it was sketches, drafts and other pieces from his studio. There were 271 of them, which I put in my garage. It was not until 2010 when I had a prostate operation that I decided to do something with them.'

'I wrote to the Picasso Foundation and they asked me to bring them to Paris. Then we were accused of stealing them. But in fact they were a gift. We could have sold them at any time, but didn't because they had a sentimental value.'

His wife continued: 'We are sure these artworks are our property and we are confident that our lawyers will prove that.'

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Christine Pinault, a spokesperson for Picasso's son Calude, explained the 'astonishment' at the Picasso Foundation when Le Guennec presented the pieces in a suitcase.

'He made an appointment to come and see us and arrived on September 9 with an unlocked suitcase full of paintings and sketches. We could hardly believe he had simply got on a train with something so valuable.'

'He first claimed it was Picasso himself that had given them to him, but he didn't seem to be able to describe a single occasion when a painting was handed to him. When we asked him why he thought Picasso had been so generous, he told us simply that the artist must have thought he deserved them for all his hard work.'

Claude and other relatives of Picasso have rejected claims Le Guennec received the works as a gift. Son Claude responded his father would 'never' hand over such a mass of works.

He explained to French daily Liberation: 'That doesn't stand up. These works were part of his life.'

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 09.59.55 Unseen sketch of a horse, Picasso

Family lawyer to the Picasso's Jean-Jacques Neuer said: 'Claude Picasso was astounded. He couldn't believe his eyes. Just about everybody has felt that way. When you have 271 Picasso works that were never seen, never inventoried, that's just unprecedented. The Le Guennecs will go on trail in Grasse on 10th February following charges of receiving stolen goods.

A spokesman for France's Central Office for the Fight against Traffic in Cultural Goods commented: 'The most important thing is re-discovering important artworks for the good of art history as a whole.'

The paintings were seized in 2010 by the Interior Ministry. Included is a watercolour from Picasso's Blue Period, and nine cubist works which have been valued by experts to be around £33 million.